Brisbane have entrenched their place in the top three of the National Youth League withstanding a late surge to take a tight 1-0 win over the Central Coast Mariners in their Saturday afternoon clash at Suncorp Stadium.
In a back-and-forth battle, serving as a curtain raiser for the two club’s top-of-the-table A-League match, there was little to split the sides, who traded close shaves but without ever playing their best football.
Brisbane’s lead came almost exactly at the hour mark. Speedy Roar substitute Tomislav Cirjak went flying down the right with his first touch, and then whipped in the perfect cross for Nicholas Fitzgerald to direct past helpless Dylan Mitchell in goal.
Central Coast played their best football of the match after conceding and would have had cause to feel unlucky to leave pointless after a string of late chances.
Brisbane’s late fade would have disappointed coach John Sime, who watched his side go down 5-2 to ladder leaders Melbourne Heart after leading 2-0 with less than half an hour to play.
Jason Geria was a star for the Roar in the centre of defence, defusing several promising attacks with great timing and bravery at the last.
Kwabena Appiah-Kubi had an exciting performance for the visitors, threatening with his speed on the ball and confidence to drive from within the attacking third.
A turnover from Brisbane’s Matthew Mundy gave the visitors the game’s first chance in just the second minute, but Justin Hayward’s left-foot dig dragged wide.
Kenneth Dougall returned fire in the fifth minute, registering the Roar’s first on goal with a curling left that demanded a resolved parry from Dylan Mitchell.
Bradley McDonald saw yellow in the 10th minute, directing a mouthful of dissent at referee Alan Milliner as the hosts lined up for an early corner.
Brisbane were in control of the majority of the opening half hour, but the best strike of the half came from the Mariners Anthony Caceres, who unleashed a powerful drive from a loose ball at the top of the area, foiled only by a brilliant diving save from Andrew Redmayne.
Brisbane’s closest crack of the opening half came through the fleet feet of Brandon Borello, who left his defender for dead with a sleek turn inside the area and rifled a close range effort that slammed off the crossbar and back for more Roar chances.
Both sides were able to produce a flurry of chances in the opening five minutes of the second, but scores stayed level as Corey Brown and Matthew Thurtell missed from inside the 18 and then the Mariners’ missed a gold-platter loose ball inside the six-yard box.
The Mariners, who had stood to move from fifth into the top three with a win, were spurred on after falling behind at the hours mark.
Jordan Farina and Mitchell Duke both had unmarked efforts in good position, but neither could demand a save from Redmayne.
But the Brisbane stopper still had nervous final 15, with a fluffed clearance and a juggle from a cross almost undoing his strong game.
Fitzgerald had a chance to claim a double in the 87th when scraps fell his way after a brilliant one-handed save from Mitchell, but his crack rocketed over the bar.
Brisbane Roar 1 (Fitzgerald 60)
Central Coast 0